Cheney: "We Weren't In Torture Business"

Objecting to the Obama administration's refusal to use waterboarding and other interrogation procedures put into place by the Bush administration, former vice president Dick Cheney said the policies were part of "an intelligent interrogation program," and that revoking them may cost American lives.

Unlike former President George W. Bush, who (like many of his predecessors) has demurred from making public comments or criticisms about his successor and his policies, Cheney has been vocal in his attacks on the new president.

(CBS)
"The reason I have been speaking," Cheney (left) said on CBS News' Face The Nation, is because "the issues that are at stake here are so important."

Cheney said that he fundamentally disagrees with many of the decisions of the Obama administration, including dismantling policies put into place by the Bush-Cheney administration which he credits with keeping the nation safe for nearly eight years following 9/11.

"Now we have an administration that has come to power that has been critical of the programs," he said, citing calls by many to investigate and possibly disbar or prosecute the Bush administration lawyers who gave legal approval for the use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding, recognized to be torture.

He said that the Obama administration's actions to reverse some of these Bush policies is "deeply disturbing."

Cheney said that by getting rid of the enhanced interrogation techniques and the Bush adminstration's surveillance program, "you reduce the intelligence flow to the intelligence community upon which we based those policies that were so successful."

Schieffer asked if Cheney feels that the Obama administration has made the United States more susceptible to terrorist attacks.

"That's my belief, Bob," he said.

Cheney has rebuffed charges that waterboarding does not work in getting good intelligence, and accusations that torture inflicted by U.S. interrogators was counter-productive. He has called for the release of classified documents which would, he says, prove that information obtained following the application of waterboarding prevented terror attacks.

He also suggested that the Obama administration was selectively releasing memos from the Bush White House: "They don't have any qualms at all about putting things out that can be used to be critical of the Bush administration policies, but when you've got memos out there that show precisely how much was achieved and how lives were saved as a result of these policies, they won't release those. At least, they haven't yet."

"Give us the memos, release them to the press, let everyone take a look and see," he said.

He claimed the CIA memos discuss how specific terror attacks were planned and stopped.

Cheney said that techniques such as waterboarding were successful in producing security results, citing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he said did not cooperate until after he had been waterboarded. "Once we went through that process, he produced vast quantities of invaluable information about al Qaeda."

Asked about the hypocrisy of America employing certain interrogation techniques — the suggestion that we have stooped to becoming like our enemies — Cheney said he had no regrets about the Bush administration authorizing their use. "I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm convinced, absolutely convinced, that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives."

"What do you say to those, Mr. Vice President, who say that when we employ these kinds of tactics, which are after all the tactics that the other side uses, that when we adopt their methods, that we're weakening security, not enhancing security, because it sort of makes a mockery of what we tell the rest of the world?" asked Schieffer.

"Well, then you'd have to say that, in effect, we're prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect
America."

Cheney still bristled at the suggestion that what President Bush authorized constituted torture, saying they weren't in the "torture business.

"I think it's very, very important that we have a clear understanding that what happened here was an honorable approach to defending the nation, that there was nothing devious or deceitful or dishonest or illegal about what was done," he said.

More from Face The Nation (5.10.09):

  • Cheney Picks Rush Limbaugh Over Colin Powell
  • Schieffer To David Souter: Don't Let The Court House Door Hit You
  • Read The Complete Transcript> (pdf)

    To watch Dick Cheney defend the Bush administration's interrogation tactics click on the video player below.